NILAVRONILL: Do you think literature or poetry is really essential in our life? If so why?
SAHELI MITRA: Literature and poetry help in uplifting the mind and soul, without which one cannot survive. Just like food keeps the body engine going, poetry and literature take care of our mental health and that’s essential for survival even during the recent Pandemic.
NILAVRONILL: How does it relate to the general history of mankind?
SAHELI MITRA: Literature was one of the earliest need of mankind and that’s why ancient India created Vedic literature. As I said before, it is the medicine of mind. Hence just like discovery of fire was a milestone in ancient man’s journey, so was literature and poetry.
NILAVRONILL: Our readers would like to know your own personal experience regarding the importance of literature and poetry in your life.
SAHELI MITRA: Poetry keeps me alive. It is like a catharsis for me, whenever I feel down, frustrated or hurt, I pour out through words. Most of my short stories are also reflection of my real-life experiences. Hence, I write because I feel an inner need to write and share it with friends at times so that I can relate to them through my words.
NILAVRONILL: Who were your favorite writers during the early period of your life? And how they have paved your early routes in literature?
SAHELI MITRA: Oh.. this is a tough question. Because I have always been a voracious reader all my life. And being a Bengali with the Bengali literature so very enriched, I simply gorged on Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra, Bhibutibhushan, Saradindu, Bimal Mitra, Manik Bandopadhyay and so many. As for English Jane Austen, Oscar Wild and O Henry were my all time favourite since school days. And yes I still love detective stories, hence Satyajit Ray and Agatha Christie came in.
NILAVRONILL: Now coming back to the present time, do you think people in general actually bother about literature in general? Do you think this consumerist world is turning the average man away from serious literature?
SAHELI MITRA: No they don’t. Even if a book is priced at Rs 100, they will not buy it, rather they will spend a 1000 on a dress. Even our children have forgotten to read, more glued to shows on TV or their mobile phone or laptop. Even E-books are not being read or appreciated. This is very sad, because literature is the foundation of a healthy mind and soul. If one cannot nurture it from childhood, then the society turns sick as we see in India today with rising perversion in every strata of the society.
NILAVRONILL: Now if we try to understand the tradition and modernism, do you think literature can play a pivotal role in it? If so, how?
SAHELI MITRA: Literature plays a pivotal role in balancing tradition vs modernism. Again, since I come from Bengal, I feel blessed that authors like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore more than a century ago could write path breaking novels like Charitraheen, or Tagore writing Shesher Kabita, Sadharon Meye as a poem, which are so ahead of their times. They stuck to the tradition, yet were so modern in their thoughts. Similarly take for example Ashapurna Devi, a complete housewife, who goes on to create role model women, who break the shackles of patriarchy. Or even Pratibha Basu. To be modern, one does not need to write or think only on lines of selling hard sex and love scene-oriented literature or use difficult words and hard hitting slangs to protest. You need an open mind, a matured and forward-thinking mind, that will make you balance off tradition vs modernism debate.
NILAVRONILL: Again, how can an individual writer relate himself or herself with the tradition and modernism?
SAHELI MITRA: I am modern at heart. For that I never protested outright. I never needed to. I stood my ground and everything fell in place. I still hold on to the concept of family, it is very dear to me. I do not do things that I do not like to do, just to prove I am modern, I do not need to take drugs or drink and pass out in a pub, or smoke standing on the streets. For me establishing my personal thoughts was when I did not wear a sindoor even on my wedding day and never ever, when I did not change my surname, when I raise a son who bears both my and my husband’s surname. I believe in equality. Neither in tradition or in modernism. Because they are very relative and change as per age.
NILAVRONILL: Do you think society as a whole, is the key factor in shaping you up as a poet, or your poetry altogether?
SAHELI MITRA: Yes of course. The selfish and self-centered society of today impacts me a lot and my writings.
NILAVRONILL: Coming to the present time, how does politics in general influence you in your writings?
SAHELI MITRA: I am very apolitical. I am a NOTA voter as I believe all political parties have vested interests. So no point spending time after them.
NILAVRONILL: Are you feminist? Can literature play any decisive role in feminism at all?
SAHELI MITRA: No, I am not a feminist. Rather I hate that term. I love my men, and am not ready to believe all men are practicing patriarchy and trying to disrespect women. If husbands of Bengali female authors and poets of yesteryears did not support their wives, do you think we would have got so many female poets and authors? I say I am a human being, so give me the respect as a human being. I really do not support this overzealous feminism of India today. I believe it is creating more divide between a man and a woman. You cannot force down anything, you need to educate our boys.
NILAVRONILL: Do you believe that all writers are by and large the product of their nationality and is it an incentive or an obstacle for becoming a truly international writer?
SAHELI MITRA: I believe powerful words have the same impact everywhere, national or international. Else how can Rabindranath Tagore still be so relevant worldwide?
NILAVRONILL: What role can literature play to make our lives better on a day to day basis?
SAHELI MITRA: Literature gives us the food for living a holistic life. A life where only the prey-and predator rule of Nature does not exist, rather what exists are the finer feelings that make us human beings.
SAHELI MITRA is an internationally published author, poet and journalist. She heads her own content company Tales, Talks and Walks (TTW) handling international and national brands. She has been a full time journalist in the first 20 years of her life with more than 250 published articles on Law and Consumer and Science in Eastern India’s largest newspaper. Saheli is a rank holder in graduation and post graduation and did her Mphil in Environmental Biology. She has her own Tree Group named To Trees with Love